The Beast of the Yellow Night directed by Eddie RomeroBeast of the Yellow Night directed by Eddie Romero

The Beast of the Yellow Night directed by Eddie RomeroDuring the 10-year period 1968-’77, Filipino director Eddie Romero collaborated with American actor John Ashley on no less than 10 motion pictures. First up was the little-seen Manila, Open City, to be quickly followed by the so-called Blood Island trilogy (Brides of Blood, The Mad Doctor of Blood Island and Beast of Blood), and then the film in question here, Beast of the Yellow Night (AND, later on still, films with such titles as The Twilight People, The Woman Hunt, Beyond Atlantis, Savage Sisters and Sudden Death). Nowhere near as pulpy or as fun as the Blood Island trilogy, Beast of the Yellow Night is something of a labor to sit through, sports a confused and confusing story line, and never adequately answers a good number of questions that the film itself raises.

In it, Ashley plays a U.S. Army deserter named Joseph Langdon, who, when we first encounter him in the jungles of southeast Asia in 1946, is fleeing from his pursuers and near death. He is saved by a portly, acerbic sort of fellow, who the viewer soon divines to be no less a figure than Satan himself (amusingly portrayed by the great Filipino mainstay Vic Diaz), and gives up his eternal soul in return for his salvation. Flash forward 25 years, and we find Langdon’s soul inhabiting the body of wealthy industrialist Philip Rogers, who, after a disfiguring accident, awakens with Langdon’s precise facial features (at least, this is what I THINK happens here). Langdon’s mission: to bring out the latent evil in the man he is inhabiting. The problem: Rogers’ hotty wife, Julia (well played by yummy Mary Wilcox, whose work I had recently enjoyed in such psychotronic winners as the woefully underrated Love Me Deadly and the shlocky thrill ride Psychic Killer), whom he becomes understandably attracted to. The even bigger problem: Langdon/Rogers’ tendency to morph into a hideous-looking, gut-ripping, indestructible monster at the most inopportune moments…

Regarding those monstrous transformations, screenwriter/director Romero leaves it pretty unclear WHY Langdon/Rogers is being punished by Satan in this manner … unless it has something to do with the character going near a church, or making love to a woman, or feeling any sort of decent, human emotions. Who knows? Again, why is the monster made suddenly vulnerable to bullets at the film’s end, after being invincible up till that point? Just because he said a prayer for a dying blind man? Who can say? And while I’m posing some imponderables, what’s up with the film’s title, anyway? The only “yellow” on display in this film are the ocher-colored vapor swirls that sometimes surround Satan when he manifests himself. Could that be it? Anybody’s guess.

Besides these instances of fuzzy writing, Beast of the Yellow Night gives us the usually likable Ashley in a fairly wooden performance, some unimaginative lensing by Romero, and few if any scares or even moments of suspense, even though there are, surprisingly, numerous scenes involving blood and guts on display. On the plus side, these Filipino horror pictures always feature interesting-looking, exotic locales, and this one is no exception, although it might have been nice if Romero had managed to squeeze in a few more gorgeous Filipino women as additional eye candy (as he did, for example, in my favorite picture of his, 1973’s Black Mama, White Mama, a distaff Defiant Ones starring Pam Grier). The film gives us one excellent performance, at least: Leopoldo Salcedo as Inspector Santos, the head cop trying to hunt down the maniacal killer; Salcedo underplays nicely and invests his cop with a good deal of dignity and smarts. Another plus: the memorable and at times lovely score by Nestor Robles; how strange to find such a nice piece of music in this film, of all films!

And as for this DVD itself, from the fine folks at RetroMedia, it sports a decent-looking (though far from pristine) print of the film, and comes with a number of interesting “extras.” In the one called “Remembering John Ashley,” Ashley’s widow, Jan, as well as director Fred Olen Ray and some of Ashley’s other friends, reminisce about the man and his work; this “extra” is, I hate to admit, far more interesting than the film itself. Beast of the Yellow Night is not quite (as they would say in Tagalog) “walang kwenta,” but it sure does come close!


  • Sandy Ferber

    SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

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